Sunday, May 1, 2016

Thank You from Our Home to Yours

 A Belated Happy Easter from Our House to Yours

Rare picture of me with the children

Dear Editor,

Fourteen years ago this May my life was forever altered when my first husband was tragically killed in a military plane collision leaving me a widow at the age of twenty-five with two children under the age of two to raise. Two years later I moved to Steubenville, Ohio in order to pursue my masters degree at Franciscan University. While most people in my life thought I was crazy for moving to a town where I didn't know a soul instead of moving back home to be closer to family, I knew without a doubt that this was the journey God had in store for my children and myself. I was lucky enough to fall in love a second time and after remarrying we decided to put down roots and open a business nine years ago. The past nine years have been quite the family journey that included buying a small farm, homeschooling and having three more babies.

Unfortunately tragedy struck once again a year ago this May 1st. I once again unexpectedly became a single mom. At this time my family and I would like to take the time to publicly thank some of the people who have helped us through this past year. First I would like to thank Sheriff Abdalla, Captain Susan Bell and all of the sheriff deputies. I would like to thank all of the staff of the Jefferson County Jail. Thank you for helping to keep all of us safe. Thank you as well to the Steubenville Police Force. You have answered every call over this past year with professionalism and kindness. Thank you to Prosecutor Jane Hanlin, Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Bruzzesse, Detective John Lelless and the judges who serve Jefferson County for your hard work and dedication. I wish to also thank defense attorney Stephen Stickles and the other defense lawyers that serve our area so that our justice system can work the way our founding fathers intended it to work. During the past year I was also blessed to receive help from attorney Francesca Carinci and her secretary Amanda Varner. Thank you so much for helping me to navigate the legal system that I found myself suddenly involved in and for always answering my calls and concerns. To all the staff I have encountered in both the courthouse and the city municipal offices: thank you for always politely answering my answers and sending me to the correct office to get the help I needed. Lisa Scott, the Jefferson County Victim's Assistance Coordinator, has helped us to navigate the very confusing stream of paperwork that entered my life. Marisa Bortz, an advocate from the A.L.I.V.E. domestic violence shelter became a friend when I was in desperate need and didn't even know how to ask for the help that I needed. Thank you Marisa for listening to your gut and calling me personally on two different days when I was barely hanging on emotionally and really needed an advocate for our situation. Thank you to Eileen Spencer and everyone associated with A Caring Place and the vital services that they provide for families in crisis. I wish to thank the staff of Jefferson County Job and Family Services. You provide a public service that is desperately needed to help keep our children safe. Too often people criticize you instead of validating the tough jobs you have. I thank all of you for your help in our case as well. I especially thank the foster care families in Jefferson County, especially the family that helped protect my children while my innocence was proven. Thank you for loving them for those few days and for continuing to check on them and for becoming my friend. Thank you to our personal counselors, whose names I won't list for our own privacy. Thank you for helping us to get through this tragedy.

While I hesitate to start to list the following names, in fear that I may accidentally leave a name out, there are a few more people that we really need to thank. Without going into details, many people know that we almost lost our business during the course of the past year. During this past year a miracle was pulled off by the grace of God and the many prayers of my family, friends and customers. I know that many people thought I was crazy for fighting to keep my store open. Many people think I am crazy for still choosing to live in Steubenville and for not moving away from here. But you see, some things are worth fighting for. For my life both my children and the livelihood that the business can someday provide for them are ones that I consider a fight worth fighting. Fighting to stay in Steubenville is worth it as well. I firmly believe that if you pray as if everything depends on God and then work as if everything depends on you that things will work out. Now God doesn't necessarily provide for our needs in the way we wish and dream for, but He does provide.

The biggest hero of my story besides the resilient strength and love of my children is my now ex mother-in-law. She kept her word from nine years ago and chose to stay here and become, as she refers to herself, the “granny nanny.” If I work seventy hours during a week then she works seventy-five hours taking care of the children. Without her love and support I would have had to close our store as soon as our tragedy occurred. Thank you mom for loving me and your grandchildren to make all the sacrifices you are making! Without the financial support of both my parents, sister, other extended family members and friends across this great country the store would have had to close while I was fighting to get refinanced. It was very humbling since I had never asked for money since I was nineteen years old. Thank you for being faithful! Thank you to my past staff, especially Karen O'Day-Cooper, the former assistant manager. Thank you for stepping up and serving our customers especially on those days when you were suppose to be off of work. Thank you to my current staff that is continuing to give our customers the great service they have come to expect from our tiny store. Thank you to my customers past, present and future. I cannot tell you how much your words of kindness, prayers and financial support both through the store and with donations to our Go FundMe and to me personally have meant! Truly our doors would have closed last August and this past January through March if you hadn't provided for me and the children while I knocked on yet another bank door. I cannot even begin to try to list you all by name in fear of accidentally missing one name. Thank you to my extended UPS and The UPS Store colleagues: you truly mean it when you say “UPS is a family.”

Thank you to all the parishioners of St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Weirton, WV. Your love and support has helped to keep us going. Thank you to the parishioners of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hopedale, Ohio and St. Terese Catholic Church in Cadiz, Ohio since they are my second “home” parish for those weekends when I can't make it to Weirton. Thank you to Michele Santin from the Office of Family and Social Concerns (Catholic Charities) for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Steubenville. During this past year instead of being able to buy for a child on the Christmas giving tree my children were the ones listed on a giving tree. Thank you to those anonymous souls that put smiles on my children's faces on Christmas morning by buying the presents I couldn't afford. Thank you as well to Catholic Charities for the help with a utility bill the one month that I was especially desperate for help. Thank you to the anonymous souls that have loaned me money without interest. Thank you as well to those who helped buy my kids back to school clothes and supplies, birthday and Easter presents. Thank you to those who provided us meals, Kroger gift cards and gas cards. All these little donations added up to help provide for our basic needs this past year. Thank you to those priests who gave us spiritual counseling over the past year. There were so many I am afraid to try to name you all, but I do have to thank two in particular: Father Francis of the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and Father Gregory Thompson of Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church. Thank you for providing the corporal work of mercy by visiting my now ex-husband in prison. I saw you also provide friendship and comfort to the other families visiting prisoners. Thank you for providing that great need to those who desperately need God's mercy and kindness.

The tragedy that occurred in our life has meant that I had to go to work full time and thus stop homeschooling my children. I would be remiss if I didn't thank those people who have stepped up to help us. First, thank you to our amazing local Heart of Mary Catholic homeschool community! I truly miss seeing all of you at extra-curricular events. Last summer many of you stepped up to help with babysitting. It meant so much to know that my children were in loving homes those few times that neither I nor their grandmother could babysit. Thank you to the Encounter Youth Group. Last summer many of the youth and their parents spent a work day at our farm. Thank you from the bottom of my heart especially since we do not actively attend your activities. Thank you to the Mary Seat of Wisdom Classical Co-op. It was my privilege to have taught there a few short years and I truly miss all the parents and children. Thank you for providing this last year of transition for my youngest child. Thank you to our new schools: Steubenville High School, Bishop John King Mussio Central Elementary School and the Immaculate Heart Montessori School. Words cannot even begin to express how much the support, kindness and love has been from all the staff, teachers and families. It means so much to know that my children are attending schools where I know that people are looking out for their well being when I can't be there with them. It wasn't the easiest of years for us emotionally and I know that many of you have helped my children. To the many health professionals who provide for our health: thank you, thank you, thank you.

Finally I would like to thank all the wonderful people of our tri-state area. Too often we get down about our area. We list all the things that are wrong with it and not what is going right. Hopefully after twelve years I won't offend anyone as I now claim this as my adopted “home town.” Our area is still going through its painful economic transition, but it has one thing going right for it: it has the best people in the world fighting for it. I can't even begin to list all the people by name who have helped me over the years. Five years ago I almost died from pregnancy complications and people brought us meals for months. Some of them were complete strangers, but put themselves on the schedule a friend made up to coordinate meals. We experienced that same kindness this past year in abundance. A godmother made us three meals in less than six hours and dropped them all off to help get us through Holy Week. People have anonymously left cards at the store just to let me know that someone was praying for us not knowing that I really needed that encouragement on that particular day. I have encountered help over and over again from every business I have gone to over the past year. If they couldn't help they suggested someone else who possibly could and I would then go to that next person. This was both financially and for personal needs, like home remodeling repairs or lawn mower service.

I already believed in Steubenville and the tri-state area when I first pushed to open our business nine years ago. I believe even more in our area having gone through this tragedy. Yes our area is not perfect and yes, the legal system isn't perfect either, but it is the best system that we have in the world right now. I know that it seems like we have experienced even more setbacks with the announced closing of several different businesses in the past few months. But this I know: we may have to think outside of the box, but we can develop our own path. We can fight the good fight and provide a stronger tri-state area for our children. The good people in this area are some of the best and most professional in the world. All of us choose to stay here because we want a small town life for our children. We have some of the best schools with traditions of excellence right here in our valley. We are strong because we care. We rally when people are in need. My first thought when my tragedy occurred, especially as the true financial fiasco I was left with began to reveal itself was that my family was going to lose it all: our store and our house. But then I prayed and told God that I would fight as hard as I could for as long as I could, but I needed Him to provide my strength and for our every need. God is always good even when life is not. He is faithful even in my own unfaithfulness through human sin. He provided for my own family in ways I could not even imagine during this past year. It has been incredibly painful and also very humbling because I had to keep asking for help over and over again. But I know this: God will provide for our valley. We just have to be faithful and open to new business models as we enter the world of e-commerce and social media.

Thank you God for your faithfulness and for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Infant Jesus Child of Prague has provided for our family in miraculous ways. Thank you Saint Joseph for your ongoing protection of my family and interceding for our needs with your foster son Jesus. Thank you to Saint Cajetan for interceding and helping to provide for our Divine Mercy “bandaid loan” to help get us through to our final refinancing next year. Thank you to my family's patron saints and guardian angels. Your continued protection and guidance is very real and greatly appreciated. I cannot wait until I can thank you personally in heaven.

The words to Lauren Daigle's song “Trust In You” are my personal anthem and the best way that I can thank you God. They have guided me for this past year and are my ongoing prayer as I live my life aiming for eternal life in heaven. I hope these words help someone else in need as well:

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see
I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side
When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!
Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less
When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!
You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood
When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!


Thank you all! May God bless you and keep you now and always.

Sincerely,

Stephanie LS Rivers
Owner of The UPS Store-Steubenville

Occasional rare blogger at thesweetnessofhome.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 10, 2016

March Update #1 and Novena to St Joseph



Learn more about St. Joseph Altars here.


Unfailing Petition to St. Joseph:

Holy St. Joseph, Spouse of Mary,
be mindful of me, pray for me, watch over me.
Guardian of the paradise of the new Adam, 
provide for my temporal wants.
Faithful guardian of the most precious of all treasures,
I beseech thee to bring this matter to a happy end,
if it be for the glory of God,
and the good of my soul.
Amen.


Note for all my Protestant friends: When Catholics pray to the Saints, they are asking them to intercede to God on their behalf.  We believe that the Saints in Heaven spend their eternity praying for us still here on earth and glorifying God with praise.


Thanks to your donations we have been able to keep the lights, heat and internet on at our store.  Thanks to two small loans from family members we were also able to pay for the past two months of our overdue "health care sharing co-op" (basically a version of health insurance for me and the children) and to keep the lights on at our house.  Thanks to that money we were able to pay the over $2,000 in loan payments that were due for the past two weeks.  We still have $3,000 in loan payments and past due bills still to pay for March alone and we are still waiting for the appraisal for the house to come through to find out if we can get a loan to help keep the store open.
Any money you can donate towards the Go FundMe will help to keep us open.
As for overcoming obstacles, yesterday the motor blew out on the heater/ac unit for our store.  Thankfully the repairmen were able to find a new motor within an hour's drive of our store and get things fixed, but that was another unexpected $500 (which is my deductible for every repair needed at the store.)

Some people have inquired about my refinancing options.  Unfortunately corporate does not have a national program set up for our stores to refinance.  I have to find a local source.  I am on bank #6 trying to make it happen, but every month that this situation stretches on the credit rating keeps getting lower and lower and more and more bills don't get paid on time or at all.  Yet, I can't file Chapter 11 bankruptcy because I am not a multi-million dollar company.  It costs almost $30,000 to file that type of bankruptcy and we only owe $75,000 and most lawyers don't do Chapter 11's for that "small" amount of money because Chapter 11's take so much time to litigate.....If I file Chapter 7 bankruptcy on the store then I lose my house (because the house anchors the store) and I can't sell the house because the house anchors the store.....so I am in this horrible catch-22.  It kills me to hear the local accountant tell people over and over again that "the store is solvent if we can get rid of the rapid finance repayments of $3500 per month that is dragging the store under (plus the other debt that Jason left me with)."  So far we have made it ten months.  We are so close and just need a little more time to save the store and keep the family home.  Thank you for your prayers and donations.  If you can help again, please donate and please help spread the word.  Most of all just keep us in your prayers!

St. Joseph Altar and Novena

A year ago March 10th my life began its radical change.  Without going into details of the case that need to remain private, a year ago March 10th I did what had been previously unimaginable to my life and asked my then husband to move out.  Per my devotion to St. Joseph I then added "protect my family and help me figure out my marriage" to our novena to St. Joseph.  March 18th is the feast day of St. Joseph, the protector of the Church.  As the weeks passed through March and April last year, St. Joseph and God worked behind the scenes leading to my now ex-husband and ex-employee's arrest before evidence could be destroyed.  I wrote the following testimony last July in my thanksgiving tribute to St. Joseph:

"As many of you know I have a strong devotion to St. Joseph.  In fact I have blogged about our annual St. Joseph Altar dinner that we give every March in the past.  Jason was first arrested on May 1st, which is the feast day of "St. Joseph the Worker."  May is also the month of Our Lady St. Mary.  (Several different friends pointed this out to me a few days after he was arrested.)  Jason not only helped me honor St. Joseph with preparing the large St. Joseph meals, but he had of his own volition written a prayer and vow to St. Joseph to take care of me and his stepchildren at our wedding as St. Joseph took care of St. Mary and Jesus.  We now know he was stealing from our business, which is the exact opposite of being like "St. Joseph the Worker."  He also said honored Mary under the title "Our Lady of Victory."

This past winter Jason kept saying how he wanted to sell our rental duplex, that it was too stressful for him to maintain (even as he had moved his mistress into it and was paying her bills there.)  I had bought a statue of St. Joseph to put inside the duplex (NOT to be buried in the ground as some people do).  He never took the statue there, so in April I pushed it into his hands saying you can't ask St. Joseph to intercede for the selling of the duplex if you don't take St. Joseph to the house for it to sell.  So, he ACTUALLY took the statue of St. Joseph to the duplex, but didn't put it in the empty unit.  He actually took St. Joseph into where the mistress lived.  Eight days after the two of them were arrested, my friends helped me search the unit where she lived (that I am the landlord of) so that we could hand over her electronic devices to the sheriff and we found St. Joseph hidden in a kitchen cupboard.   St. Joseph is known as THE TERROR OF DEMONS.  No wonder they were thankfully finally caught by the Sheriff due to an anonymous tip.  YOU DON'T MESS WITH ST.  JOSEPH.  Jason actually took the statue of one my patron saints-THE SAINT THAT HE HAD VOWED TO BE LIKE-into the place where he was committing adultery.

A few days later, a large box arrived at the store as I left to go to his bond hearing (where the bond was lowered.)  The next day one of the employees reminded me that the large box sitting in the store was mine.  Inside it was a statue of the Holy Family THAT I HAD ORDERED BACK IN FEBRUARY FOR OUR ST. JOSEPH ALTAR DINNER.  The statue arrived three months later on the day of Jason's bond hearing as one more reminder from God that St. Joseph is interceding for me and the children in heaven.  It comforted me so much that I am not even annoyed about how long it took it to arrive.  Obviously it came right on time!!!"



I am starting my annual novena to St. Joseph.....praying for his continue guidance of how to provide for my family.  As I say over and over again, every day that my store is open is a miracle.  Over the course of the past year I have truly learned what it means to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread."  St. Joseph has protected my children and myself, most likely in ways we don't even know.  People who host St. Joseph Altars say that once you start, you never stop.  Even though we don't have a lot of money...even though I have to work on the 18th....and my kids' activities fill the weekend schedule and then we have the start of Holy Week, I have decided to host a frugal small St. Joseph Altar at work to honor St. Joseph.  There will be minestrone soup, bread, cake and pizzelles.  Please feel free to visit our store and small altar next Friday, March 18th from 11am-5:30pm.

I have added all the prayer intentions of anyone who has "prayed for us past, present and future" to our novena.  I have also added the intentions of anyone who has donated to help cover our bills (past, present, future as well.)

If you would like to pray the novena to St. Joseph with me then please pray these prayers.

Please see my past posts regarding two of our past three St. Joseph Altars:



St. Joseph: Protector of the Holy Family and my own!


Words cannot express how much your words of kindness, donations of money and constant prayers mean to the children and myself.  The grace that we have been given to survive this situation all comes from God blessings your prayers made on our behalf.


May you have a blessed end to your Lent and a sweet start to your spring,

Stephanie

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Healing Time

Taking Time to Heal

If you are a new visitor here is the brief summary of my life:

Was married to a US Naval Officer who died in a training plane collision leaving me a single mom.
Remarried and had three more children.
Husband had an affair with an employee.
He and the employee hurt children and stole from our store.
They are in jail.
I am now a single mom again with five children.
I am trying frantically to keep our store open for business.
I got stuck with an unbelievable amount of debt and therefore may have to close the store.
We need $10, 000 immediately to keep the store open until the newly approved bank financing is processed and available for use eight weeks from now.
If we don't get money to pay the electric and cable bill the store will be closed by the end of this week.
(Ironically if we make it through the next eight weeks we will be at the year mark for when my ex was arrested.)

You can donate here if you want to help keep our store open.
Please consider being a part of our miracle!

Here is a new update:

I wrote one blog post, but when I went back to add pictures, all that writing has disappeared.  Not sure why it doesn't seem to be saved on the computer.

Last month, thanks to your prayers and the hard work on the part of both the prosecutors and the defense lawyer, and only two business days before his trial was to begin, a plea deal was made.  We were able to avoid a trial which has been my desperate plea since Jason was first arrested.  While some may disagree with how the system works I am relieved.  The plea deal was "life in prison without the possibility of parole for nineteen years."  None of the children had to testify.  Twelve jurors and the public was spared from being exposed to whatever evil is contained in the mountains of evidence the prosecution had from all the computers that we willingly turned over.  Let's be honest: only my pinkie nail wanted a trial so I could try to figure out how all this happened-what signs did I miss?  Right now the prosecutors and detectives know more about my life and ex-husband than I do.  But 99.9% of me is relieved-my kids are protected.  We can move on and begin healing now.  We have a timeframe.  Because honestly, a trial would just have created more questions for me since it is truly incomprehensible for a normal person to emotionally understand what actually happened.  Even if both Jason and the mistress truthfully explained what happened, I will always have, "Why? and What the....?"  So, now we try to move on and let the healing begin.

I was hoping to say that life is better now, but it is not.  That is why I have avoided this blog update as long as I have.  My friends who set up the Go FundMe have been urging me to get this written for weeks, but I am so tired of asking for help-of writing how much my life sucks that I just keep postponing it.  Plus I have been averaging 70 hour work weeks while our store gets new staff trained.

Back during the summer when we started the Go FundMe asking for $25,000 in money it was to help with the heat remodel, make other improvements on the house and get a new safer vehicle which are all requirements of social services for being able to keep my kids.  We had only been able to collect $11, 000 and I did not have signed divorce papers by the beginning of September with the full knowledge that winter was coming and we had no heat.  So, I leveraged the only asset I had left, which was the store and took out two horrible rapid repayment loans, because I had been reassured that as soon as the divorce was complete we would be able to refinance.  But now, since more and more debt keeps being reported by different vendors, the IRS, etc, normal refinancing is not working.  I just keep knocking on every door, asking for more time every single week.  I have taken only one paycheck since July because why pay payroll taxes on checks I cannot cash?  We have dried up all assets, listed new ones for sale, (anyone want a fixer up rental duplex?), we are reaching the end of the game plan.  It seems crazy to me that the #12 store in our region, that still had lines of customers going out the door this week even though it was February, could be shut down over not being able to get financing for $50, 000 because when we are talking about business $50, 000 is not that much money in today's day and age.  To my credit, and to the credit of loyal family, friends and customers, we have not defaulted on any loans.  I keep plugging away-but I HAVE to pay off the rapid refinance loans or we will LOSE the store.  We need $50, 000 asap (that is the loan amounts plus the interest) so that I can actually pay myself a wage and other store bills we are falling behind on each month instead of paying those loan companies $3500/month.  I have a business plan that shows how much I can afford to pay if anyone is willing to come in as a partner for the business or give me a decent loan with a regular interest rate.  If any of you can donate to help me pay both the store bills and my personal bills that I can't pay since I am not paying myself, please donate here.  Any money paid to the Go FundMe will go towards keeping the lights (and other basic bills like rent) on at both the store and home first, then any extra money above the next $10,000 will go towards store debt.  (Those rapid loans are why we have increased the amount needed on the Go FundMe.)  If you can't donate, then please just pray-I know that God has some mysterious plan for me and the kids.  Just pray that I have peace as I make decisions each week when it comes to the store.  I am open to all possibilities: hiring a manager and working another job to help pay off debt, selling the store, filing bankruptcy and closing the store, or doing what I have been doing: going to work each day to pay the bills and keeping the store going.  I could have walked away ten months ago....but I don't take the easy paths in life.  I was born a fighter and I believe that my store is worth fighting for.  Staying in the Steubenville area is worth fighting for which is why I this week I found a bank that can help this dream come true.  We just need help from our customers to help keep the lights on and internet running for the next two months until all the financing can be processed.

Two things I would like to address.  There seems to be some crazy rumors going around.

The first rumor is supposedly that "my mother-in-law posted Jason's bail last May."  Shame, shame on whichever people are spreading this vile rumor!!!!  My mother-in-law absolutely DID NOT post Jason's bail.  She informed his lawyer that Jason was exactly where he need to be.  His bail was posted by a military buddy who kept his wartime promise that he would put up bail if Jason was ever arrested.  He feels betrayed by the new charges that Jason's plea deal was for.  Unfortunately I have had no contact with this friend since July.  It hurts to have lost a friend that I thought I would always be able to count on if times were tough for me and the kids.  But I also know that this honorable person kept his promise and has been betrayed by a close friend he believed in.  He too needs to heal and protect himself.

The second rumor seems to be that my "children have had contact with their father."  THEY HAVE HAD NO CONTACT WITH THEIR DAD SINCE MAY 1ST!!!!  When the judge was talking about Jason breaking "no contact" orders at the plea deal last month, they were referring to him having contact with the mistress while they were both in jail.  In fact I turned over evidence of that contact after he was rearrested.  I found letters hidden in a heating vent in our duplex which I turned in as soon as I found them.  How do you know they children haven't had contact with him?  BECAUSE MY SOCIAL SERVICES CASE IS STILL NOT CLOSED.  If any contact had been made, my kids would be in the foster care system instead of safe at home with me.  My little ones do not understand what has happened.  They don't understand why they can't send their dad pictures or talk to him on the phone.  They keep asking why the judge thinks that their dad could hurt them if he is in jail.  Someday they will grow up and realize that they could be hurt by manipulation and that the judge's job is to protect them with these rules, but right now all they know is that they love their dad even though he did bad things and they can't tell him they miss him and love him.  They can't hear his voice to know he is okay.  Ask ANY foster care parent you know and they will tell you these are all normal reactions for any kid in foster care.  Kids who have been terribly hurt by their parents physically, emotionally and sexually can still love the person who hurt them.  That love MUST be honored so I do my best to honor their hurting hearts.  I tell them over and over that it will get easier and that they are loved and missed.  BUT I HAVE OBEYED EVERY RULE.  NO LETTERS, PHONE CALLS OR CONTACT HAS BEEN MADE.  In fact I am the one who has said absolutely no contact with any of the five children, not just the victims.  When each child turns 18 years old then they can personally decide if they want contact with their dad or not.

So, please, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, stop spreading rumors.  It is a sin.  Let us all move on and heal.

Sorry that I don't have time to post pictures.

Again, thank you for all the prayers!!!


May the quiet healing of winter lead you all to the sweetness of spring,

Stephanie

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Count Your Blessings


Count Your Blessings 2015

Pondering the Miracle of Christmas


I want to start this post by wishing all of you a very blessed Advent, a very Merry Christmas and the best of Happy New Years for 2016.

I sit here trying to write this blog post as my body is trying to pass two kidney stones.  I have now learned my lesson that even if I skip eating because the store is so busy with customers that I still need to make sure I drink water.  People are not being overly dramatic when they say that the pain from a kidney stone is equal to childbirth.  Thank you God for the different chemists who created all the different pain, nausea and relaxation drugs that I have taken over the past two days both orally and via iv at the hospital.  I am so thankful for my staff who covered the store on one of the busiest Saturdays of the year when I was unable to come into work.  One of my best friends dropped everything and spent the last twenty-four hours taking care of me while Debbie helped take care of the littles.  Another single mom sent one of her teenagers to check on me after I had posted a desperate plea trying to find someone to take me to the ER so that I could avoid paying for an ambulance ride.  These are all blessings that I can never repay enough.  A nurse lecturing me to "go home and stop worrying about the store.  It will still be there after you pass these stones.  I love your store."......all blessings I can never repay.  The first kidney stone has passed, but not the second yet.  Pray that it passes in the next day or two so that I can celebrate Christmas with my children and extended family.  I would like to go home for Christmas and not end up stuck in an ER trying to pass a kidney stone.

The next part of this post is what I don't know how to express accurately.  Every time I think we have a financial plan in place to get everything paid off at the store and personally....every time I think that we have emotionally processed everything we need to process I find out I am wrong.  I have been in charge of all our personal bills since March 2014.  I took over the store and the duplex in May 2015, and yet I still just got "found" by creditors this month about unpaid bills (personal and store ones) that I had never received any bills for in the mail.  When I came back to one creditor and asked him what address they had been mailing the bills to he refused to tell me since he had been"working with Jason, not you."  Yet, now of course the unpaid bills have been forwarded for me to pay since I agreed to take on all debt with the divorce......so now I am facing having to file for bankruptcy.....and it is a matter of figuring out which type we are filing for.  I am hoping that we can do a Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 so that we can restructure and save the store.

Several people have asked me, "Why?"  "Why keep the store open?  Why do this to yourself?"

To answer that is a very complicated answer that I can't accurately express to anyone.  I am the reason why there is a UPS Store in Steubenville in the first place.  It was the first franchise that I desperately missed after moving here from Pensacola.  It drove me crazy to have to buy a box at Wal-Mart or the post office and then go out to the parking lot to pack it.  My copies were not usually completed correctly at my one competitor's store.  I love my customers and I believe that the feeling is reciprocated.  I lost track of how many customers told us what a blessing we were to them this week.....how many times I almost cried because they don't know how close we are to having to shut down the store.  I just told them with a smile to come back and see us in February.

My counselor and several friends keep reminding me that there is no shame in filing for bankruptcy or deciding that it is time to put the "For Sale" sign up on the store or even to just close the store up and call it quits.  They remind me that this is not something I did myself, but rather something that was done to me.  That it is just one more way I have been victimized and deceived.  All these things just make me want to fight for it even more.  I have worked so hard and paid off so much debt already.  I put all my employees ahead of myself when it comes to paychecks and taking lunch breaks.  I try to treat my employees the way the Marines work with the whole "officers eat last" mentality.

I love my store.  While I never thought that owning a UPS Store is what I would "grow up and do" for my career, it is a job that I love.  I don't mind getting up each day and going to work.  While some people might see the job as "Different day, same old thing" mentality, I don't.  Every package we ship has a different story attached to it.  Every print job and notary service has its own story.  From shipping a frozen casserole to a niece dying from cancer who requested it as her last meal to people missing their hometown Giannamore's Pizza or Snyder potato chips to a "just because I saw it and thought of you present".....all small things that I get to help be a part of.  Helping people complete the business of their daily life, both at work and personally-all small things that I get to be a part of.  The founder of UPS once said that "the heart of the foundation of UPS is service".....I love to serve others and to be a part of a company that prides itself on giving world class customer service to every person.

I have learned how to complete freight shipments and we have learned how to print blue prints and wide format banners.  Every week I learn more and more about graphic design work, business cards, etc, etc.  Both my employees and myself have stepped up to the plate and haven't turned down a single job.  We have figured out how to get it done so we can stay in business.  We ended the last two weeks of August in the Top 10% of freight services in the country.  We won awards in October and November for being in the top 10% of other services in the network.  Honestly, our store is just starting to hit its stride.  People in Steubenville are still discovering that our tiny store is here and that we offer professional print and business services.  We haven't even reached the potential of what our store can do.  If I can just climb out of this hole my ex created-if I can be given a fighting chance,  know that we will not only stay open, but we will be a model store that others will look to and use as an example.  If anyone is interested in giving a business loan or becoming a partner in our store, please contact me directly.

So, I come here to ask for help......if you can help donate to help me get through the next three to four months.....til we can get through refinancing or filing for bankruptcy (if that is what the accountants and lawyers help me decide is the right plan of action)....if you can help me pay off the heat remodeling job and other past due personal bills since I have still not been paid back by the Ohio Attorney General's office for the thousands of dollars I am suppose to be reimbursed for from counseling that has been received as part of the Ohio Victim's Assistance fund......words cannot express how thankful we would be.  It you can't, I understand.....Please just continue to pray for more miracles because God has given us a miracle every day since May 1st.  Most of all just pray that I will have peace about whatever decision I have to make.  All of these decisions are painful, but something can hurt and you still have the peace from God that this is the right decision for you and your family.  Pray that my pride won't blind me from seeing the path before me as I stand amongst the trees.  Donate here if you can.  If you don't want to use the GoFundMe, then please mail donations to the address at the bottom of this blog post.  If you are new here and don't know what happened, the please read blog posts from May 2015 to the present date.

Earlier this week as I found out about yet more unpaid bills and was trying to figure out how on earth my ex was able to hide all these things from me....how he was able to come home each night at regular times and be there for every event and yet have some alternate life that I knew nothing about, "like what address was all these bills going to?", I wrote the following to one of my best friends:

"I feel like I am drowning. The only time I felt worse was when my kids were gone for those 4 days....I feel as if I am lost at sea and can see the shore but keep getting swept in a rip tide that I can't escape. I keep swimming, but every time I come up to breathe I get hit by a wave and swept back down. The only reason why I am getting up each day is for my kids and because I keep reminding myself that this dark night shall pass just like the darkness did when Chris died.....but this trial is far worse.....far far worse. I always believed that with God I could do anything, but now I don't....why must I be stripped bare when I already had nothing left. I thought I had been through my Calvary before, but now I realize that worse than Calvary is the scourging at the pillar.....my soul is being torn to shreds and just when it begins to heal then it is ripped open again and this time the nails and piercings go deeper. The scourging is far worse because then each day after my soul has been ripped open again I have to carry the cross. This scourging is "my dark night of the soul." The choice to follow Christ, to not give in to immoral ways to make money, to choose honor and integrity and love.....the pain that it takes to become a Saint takes my breath away. As a type A planner I have always had a plan, but now I truly don't know what my day will be.....in what way will I be scourged? So I just try to choose moment by moment what action or choice will lead me to heaven.....so as I am drowning in pain I see God's light through the darkness, the light of heaven and I keep reaching towards it even as my breath fails me."

I thank you for continued prayers for a miracle for myself, my children and our business.  If I don't get another blog post made in the next month, please pray that my ex is offered a plea deal and that we can avoid a trial.  Otherwise his trial is suppose to be the week of January 19th.

Thank you for being like the people in "It's a Wonderful Life" who bring the money to George Bailey-that has been all of you to me and the kids since May 1st.....thank you for reminding me that I am loved by God and by so many unknown people who have left anonymous notes and money......that makes me like the General from "White Christmas" whose troops surprise him and where I try to fall asleep "Counting My Blessings"......


Merry Christmas and Happy New Years from our home to yours!!!

May you feel the sweetness of God's peace with you as you begin the New Year,

Stephanie


Donations can be mailed directly to:

Stephanie LS Rivers
The UPS Store
117 S. Hollywood Blvd Box 114
Steubenville, OH 43952






Monday, November 16, 2015

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

Walk With Me


Bravely Walking into the Future


I have been intending to post for several weeks now, but have been dragging my feet....

Hoping that I would be able to announce some good news, like Jason had taken a plea deal OR that the store was in the black and debt was paid off Or something else that equals peace in my life.....Yet, I am at situation "normal".....relying on the Grace of God each day that the store will make it through......having to ask for help financially again to help with our heat situation  It is part way done, but is of course running into delays and extra supplies.  We are about $5, 000 short of what we need to finish paying for the heat remodel and to help keep the store open this month.  (Remember: this old farmhouse didn't have any duct work.)  Please donate here if you can or leave donations at our store if you can.

So many people have helped these past few months, and you have no idea how much your cards and prayers have meant to me and the children.  While I don't want to list individual names in case I would accidentally forget a name, (plus so many people left money and cards anonymously), I decided that I would list all the companies that have stepped up to cover repairs at our house, store and duplex in just the last three months.  I hope that you will send them your business if you can.  They have truly stepped up and helped God provide for the "widow and orphans."  Here is the list in no particular order:

Thomas Heating and Cooling (formerly known as Hockenberry Heating and Cooling)
Y.C. Construction (Jim Sarlo)
St. Thomas Construction (Jason Hendricks)
Wetherell Enterprises, LLC (Shane Wetherell, Septic Tank pumping & repairs)
Landon Property Management (Benjamin Clark)
Peter Stetson (painting & wallpaper removal)
Pivotal Propane from St. Clairsville, OH (propane heat tank & installation)

Also, while they ended up not completing our heating remodel, I would like to thank the following four men/companies for being willing to bid on the job and for offering advice, again in no particular order:

Todd Zimish
G&L Heating & Air, Dillonvale, OH

I would be remiss if I did not mention my two "right hand man" companies that are helping me to get through this maze of life right now:  Both B.J. Nurczyk from D'Anniballe Accounting and Dean Bucci (along with Michelle Tedreau) from Payroll Plus have answered countless questions and talked me off many an emotional cliff the past few months.  They have been very patient because I am sure I have asked them the same question several times when I have forgotten the answer.

Francesca Carinci (my attorney) and her secretary Amanda have also offered endless support as well.

Finally, Marissa Bortz with Alive, Inc.  has also helped to explain the new twists and turns that certain events have taken things during the past few months.

When I was praying about what I should write about I got stopped by the school principal to let me know that a parent had called expressing concerns because my littles have been talking.....So, I write the following to the families in my community and for any future victim families out there.......And I am open and as honest as I can be right now since I have to be very careful since there is a court case still ongoing with the possibility of a trial and for the protection of my children.

So, as I have previously mentioned my younger children don't understand what is going on at all.  We know that at least of one of the younger children was hurt while she was sleeping.  She thankfully seems to have no memories of the event, nor do the other two children who were sleeping in the same room seem to have any memories of what happened to their sister......so when they come crying to me about missing their daddy, who they are not allowed to have any contact with, and ask, "Why can't we see or talk to daddy?" I have replied over and over again, "Daddy is sick.  The judge says this is what he needs in order to get better."  When they have asked over and over, "What did daddy do that was so bad" I have replied over and over, "Daddy is sick.  Daddy hurt children."  Well, you see the littles are seven, six and four, so trying to process the reality that "Daddy is in jail.  I can't see my daddy.  Daddy hurt kids" is incomprehensible to them.  They are his biggest defenders.  They will say, "My daddy didn't mean to do bad things.  He wouldn't hurt kids.  He didn't know what he was doing" because to them He is still that hero.  He is their defender.  They don't know what he did AND we want to keep it that way......But they also don't understand that it's not socially acceptable to be going around and say, "My daddy is in jail."  They are little and they don't understand the social baggage or connotations associated with that statement.  They simply say the truth over and over again, "My daddy is in jail.  He hurt kids."  And sometimes, many times, they say this at school.

So, I apologize if these statements have caused any families that didn't know what was going on in our lives stress.  I am thankful for the parent that called the school concerned wanting to double check if the statement, "My daddy in in jail.  He hurt kids" is true.  It is good to know that your child trusts you to come and talks to you about what one of my children said.  We have had yet another conversation at home and have now come up with the line that my children can just say, "My daddy made bad decisions."  I went over yet again that they don't need to mention their daddy at all.....BUT THEY ARE HURTING AND GRIEVING.  THEY DON'T KNOW OR UNDERSTAND ALL THE CHANGES IN THEIR LIFE.  One of them came back and asked me, "Do I raise my hand when the teacher asks, 'Who has a dad?'" To which I said, "Yes, you still have a dad."  "But I don't.  He's not here anymore."  "Yes, sweetie.  You still have a daddy.  He may be in jail, but he is still your daddy.  He loves you and he prays for you everyday.  He's sad that he's sick.  He's sad that he can't be here anymore.  He misses you.  He wishes he could talk to you  He's still your daddy.  You can just tell people that he doesn't live here anymore.  That you don't get to see him.  Unfortunately lots of kids don't get to see their daddies."  Tears fall down all our cheeks......."Why would a daddy hurt kids?"  "Why???"  The only response I can give to my kids is "Daddy got sick."  But we all know the reality is both an illness and SIN and other personal info that stays within just our family.....but that is for future discussions as they grow older.  Not for right now.  Right now, "Daddy is sick" is all they need to know.  

The deal is that all five kids will now be in counseling starting in December and honestly, they are handling the situation better than most adults in their lives are handling the situation.  Nothing is more important than my children.  We are all doing the best we can, and I am doing the best I can at raising them.  I make mistakes, but my end goal is still to raise their beautiful souls to heaven-that they stay honest, sweet and loving.  That they grow up to serve "God, family and country."  So, I don't want them NOT to feel like they can talk about their dad.  They need to process the reality of their life and the reality is exactly what they say, "My daddy is in jail.  He's sick.  He hurt kids."  And with time they will realize when they can and should talk about it and when they shouldn't.  The first month of school we were having my most "adventurous kid"-the one who is the first to try something new become so anxious about going to school each day that she would throw up on the way to school.  One day she refused to get out of the car.  So I pulled over in the parking lot and got her out of the car and sat with her on my lap and cried with her in the parking lot in front of all the other families dropping of their kids as she kept asking, "Why?  Why did daddy have to go to jail?  Why can't you teach me anymore?  Why did everything have to change?"  And after I was able to convince her to go to school that day and made it to work I immediately called to put in the request with Victim's Services to get her in counseling immediately.

Honestly, if it was a perfect world, all five kids plus myself would have all started counseling last May, but Victim's Assistance is a reimbursement program, so I have to pay for all the counseling sessions up front and then be reimbursed......the paperwork for Round 1 and Round 2 of five out of 6 of us took me over 3 weeks to complete last month.....and I am an organized person......not dependent on drugs or alcohol or sex to comfort myself.  I'm pretty good at staying organized even during chaos.  I get up each day by God's grace and plug away at my endless to do list, but I now sympathize with all other victims or the parents whose children are in foster care.  I thankfully am my own boss so I can set the schedule to get off of work for myself and the children, but it IS a burden both time and financially and I have now paid over $2,000 in counseling bills without reimbursement.  Hopefully that money will be coming in time for Christmas, but MOST families can NOT do that.  Most single moms have to worry about losing their jobs and can't make it to counseling sessions during the day.  So, I know that God will have me become an advocate in the future to try to help other victim families.  If I can help one other family then it will help all this endless pain be worth it.

Rivers Family 2015: From the Sweetness of our Home to Yours


We had our family picture taken last month by Eileen Marrow.  The photos are gorgeous and she captured exactly what I wanted her to capture.....us walking into the future.  God has been faithful for the past six months and somehow beyond understanding, we have heat-we just need to finish paying for it.....Our store is still open for business (truly every day it is open is a miracle).....but most important, we are walking through a dark time for our family together.  My teenagers still choose to stay home most weekend nights with us.....we watch movies, we play games, we have dance parties, we go to church together, we experience the thankfulness of a beautiful family life.....an extraordinary, yet ordinary sweet family life.....

Thank you for walking with me on this journey: your prayers and financial help have made all the difference.

The Sweetness of an Indian Summer Fall Day


From the sweetness of our home to yours-Happy Thanksgiving!

Always,

Stephanie

If you can donate, please go here.......

If you want to read past posts regarding the crisis my family is now in, please visit the following links:












Sunday, September 13, 2015

Miracles Still Needed

What You Do For Yourself Dies With You, What You Do For Others Lives For Eternity


Hello!

Thank you for last month's miracle, but unfortunately I now need the miracle of a new furnace and heat.  If you can donate please go here right away!

If you are reading my blog for the first time please read the following blog updates to understand fully what has happened before reading the rest of this blog post:


I have been meaning to write a blog post for the past two weeks-to give you the update that thanks to all of your prayers, donated money and small loans we were able to make it to Labor Day.  Honestly, EVERY SINGLE DAY THAT MY STORE IS STILL OPEN IS A MIRACLE.

Business has thankfully started to pick up, but so have the bills to make that business happen (like ordering more boxes, paper for print jobs, etc) and now I have had to start paying on some of the big debt that a few companies were willing to postpone until September so that I didn't have to close the store.  I still haven't cashed a paycheck since July.  I am trying to pursue some peer lending sites for a personal loan that way since due to unfortunate circumstances I still don't have signed divorce paperwork almost two months after our final divorce date.  This means that I still can't refinance and IF that miracle ever happens the paperwork process to make that happen takes 6 LONG WEEKS......and it will be cold by then........

We need a new furnace in order to have a warm house.  The dual coal/wood burner that we have needs to be fed wood or coal every two-four hours.....if you spend 1-2 hours stoking it in the morning you can sometimes get a burn that will last maybe 6 hours without having more coal or wood added......but I am gone 12-14 hours a day.  I also do not feel comfortable asking my aging mother-in-law to risk getting burnt each day to keep a fire going......Since the CPS investigation is being kept open until either Jason's trial is complete or he makes a plea deal I cannot run space heaters or propane heaters in the house....I need a new propane furnace and additional duct work asap because it will be freezing cold sometime within the next six weeks.

I asked two of my best friends what else I should write you because I am so tired of humbling myself and begging for help.  I have also officially went from "adrenaline crisis stage" into "grief stage".......I am grieving the loss of the life that I once had and that can never be again.  I try to fake a smile each morning and be cheerful to get my children up for school each morning, but I cry with them at times that I can't stay at home and teach them anymore-that I have to take them to the wonderful schools they are enrolled at so that I can go to work and try to help put food on the table, clothes on their back and a roof over their head.  It is a lot of change for ALL of us......we lost our complete way of life along with a father, husband and best friend.......and I have the added "benefit" of knowing each day how close we are to losing the business to help take care of my children.  Like last month when I begged for help we had less than $100 in the bank with both payroll and a $2, 000 UPS weekly shipping bill to pay.......My grief is exhibiting itself in the form of "forgetfulness"-like leaving my cell phone somewhere seven days in a row and small things making me cry.

So, this is what my best friends told me to tell you about:

Stephanie with a the rental brush hog



They told me to tell you what I have completed in the last month while working six days a week:

 Labor Day week was thankfully only a five day work week for me.....But I paid to get my butt kicked by a pull start walk behind brush hog.  You see, unfortunately, the land around my mother-in-law Debbie's house was never leveled out after her house was put in.  I have been promising her a yard for the past four years-and starting this summer my children have been there every day.......It took me two months, and tons of asking with rejection, but I finally found two different families willing to risk their brush hogs to help get the 6 foot tall weeds knocked down back in July to surprise Debbie as her birthday present.  It had been six weeks and some of the weeds had regrown up to 3 1/2 feet tall.  I am stubborn and was honestly so tired of begging people for help that I didn't call to ask either of the two families to come back.  We tried mowing it with our regular lawn mower, but the ground is too uneven.....so I spent FIVE hours on my day off pushing this heavy mower around-getting stuck a few times and having my Joey help me pull the mower out......And I have since been scolded by several people for not asking for help again......my muscles hurt for several days even with several epsom salt baths.  I WILL ask for help next month to get the weeds knocked down one more time-or spend the same amount of money to PAY someone to do it instead of getting my butt kicked physically again....Now I know that yes, I can do it for myself if I have to, but I know how well spent every blessed dollar for brush hogging truly is.  Hopefully next spring we can afford to have the ground leveled and then we can just mow it with the regular mower.  Joey has been diligent about doing all the regular mowing and weed wacking.

In August Joey helped me for several hours to finish cleaning out Jason's apartment on my Sunday afternoon off.  We gave stuff away to several neighbors and a charity and figured out what tools to bring home to use for ourselves and started to figure out which ones to list for sale.  The next weekend we started working on cleaning out the garage which we also have worked on for the past three weekends as well in order to help make things easier for the new furnace installation.  Hopefully we will have the garage finished in the next week so that the furnace can be installed in the next few weeks.  Besides the furnace we have several other major things that need to be fixed so I have had workers out for those projects as well, giving me estimates and then starting the work.  My hope is that as soon as a plea deal is made we can have one last inspection and have the CPS issue firmly in our past.  Now if only things would stop breaking so that I can have some breathing space.

We still need $15, 000 to fix the furnace and other repairs to the house......please donate if you can.

My $5 thrift store picture to remind me it's okay to relax and take care of myself
It says, "Le Bain, Cherish Life's Simple Pleasures"


I have lost over 30 pounds in four months, which equals the last seven years and three pregnancies worth of weight.  I forget to eat and even with medication I still have trouble sleeping for more than four hours at a time.  But I try.....one friend pointed out that I have been diligent about taking care of myself.  If I feel like I am getting sick I make myself rest and take some medicine.  I make myself go to bed at a decent hour every night (even though the "to do list" is NEVER complete) and even if I only sleep for a few hours.  I make myself take baths to help relax and help heal all the sore muscles of working at a UPS Store since I can't make it to the chiropractor as often as I would like.  I make myself take the anxiety medicine that my primary doctor wants me to take until we get through this crisis.  I try to remember to take my other medications and eat, but all too often I send the employees to lunch and maybe eat once a day.  With the grief I rarely "feel" hunger anymore.  It's not until I start to feel shaky that I realize that once again I have forgotten to eat.

But mostly when I'm not learning new things at work: like completing my first two freight jobs and designing in less than 24 hours my first 24 page program book from start to finish I do this:

Anna and Katie with Libby photobomb: Pokemon and Pirate themed birthday party


Making sure my kids are happy!!!

Last month through the generosity of some friends we gave a combined birthday party for Katie and Anna at a local park since their birthdays are only six weeks apart.  The park we had it at has a splash pad so the kids got to run around while getting wet and then the teenage brothers and sisters started a game of kickball on the baseball field.  We played "pin the pirate on the pirate map."  Later today we will celebrate Anna's actual birthday that is later this week with the special menu she planned:  home made taco casserole with chips and ice cream.  For breakfast it's Captain Crunch Peanut Butter cereal and pizza for lunch after church.

Joey and Jessie playing "Hungry Hippos" in the back of the store after a lunch break before Saturday soccer


Joey and Jessie both play soccer on their high school teams.  In one week between just those two teams they had 7 games.  I try to see part of each home game, but don't go to any of the away games.  Several friends and family members helped me to get all the littles ready for their school year by helping to purchase their uniforms and school supplies.  One family member is helping so that three littles can still take dance lessons and that the middle two can see a reading tutor.  We are starting two more children in counseling sessions this month.  All these things help to keep "life normal" for them.  I make myself sit down on the couch to be in the same room with them which is hard for me to do when I know that so many things need to be done around the house.  I try to watch a movie with them each weekend via library, rentals or Netflix-with both my big and little kids....that means that I have to try to NOT fall asleep with the littles on a Friday or Saturday night so I can spend time with Joey and Jessie.  Since the three littles are still in crisis mode and are afraid to sleep by themselves, I make myself lie in bed even when I can't sleep so they can "feel my presence"-so they can reach out and still touch me or cuddle close.  I am gone so many hours (averaging 12-14 hours per day) so I know that right now they need that quiet reassurance at night that I am still here and that "I won't stop being their mommy" which was their fear when I told them about the divorce.  They are afraid that I too will one day go to work and not come back.

We celebrated Chris' 40th birthday with a candle and prayers.  Anna got up in the morning, looked at the calendar and then immediately sang "Happy Birthday to Mr. Chris".....I miss him so much!

Picture of Chris holding Joey on his 1st Birthday-Happy 40th Chris!!!



So, there you have it.....same story as last month. I know that God has some amazing plan for me and the kids......and for that matter for all of you.  Thank you for being a part of my journey........"But by the Grace of God Goes I"........Words cannot describe the thankfulness in my heart for all the prayers AND the money that has been donated to help us stay in business AND to pay the bills at home.  For those that have given small loans, THANK YOU-thank you for believing in me-That I can do all this and provide for my kids.

Katie, Anna, Jessie and I at their summer track banquet last month
Not my most flattering picture, but as I have blogged about the girls need to see that I am okay with my body image.
I was exhausted that night, but so happy to be with my girls and see them smiling.


Since I can't get financing before it gets cold I beg you now-hopefully one last time-for help to make the repairs around the house and to provide heat for my children.  I hate asking since I know so many people are in need.  In just the last few weeks I know of a family whose house burnt down, another one where the father was burnt at work and another one with the diagnosis of cancer.......but God keeps saying, "Ask for help" and friends keep reminding me that this is my year to let others help me.......so, Please donate if you can and pray.....hopefully this leg of the journey will be done soon and true healing can begin for all of us.

Wishing you a blessed fall and knowing the warmth of God's peace,

Stephanie